The Town of Sykesville has tried unsuccessfully to find an appropriate redevelopment plan for the 51-acre Warfield Complex off Route 32 since the property was deeded to the town from the state in 2001.
Although plans presented to the public Thursday night are described as "very preliminary," the perception is that town officials believe they might have finally found the right developer to create a mixed-use development consisting of commercial, residential and retail space on the site of the former Springfield Hospital Center.
"We've been unable to get anything moving for a long time, so we're excited to at least have a proposal that's come forward," Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw said to the more than 30 people at the Sykesville Town House, where the plan was presented.
Sykesville has entered into negotiations with The Warfield Collaborative (TWC), a team of regional business people, to purchase the Warfield Complex, according to Brad Rees, president of the Warfield Development Corporation.
Negotiations began about 12 to 15 months ago, Rees said.
Although there was little information shared about who is involved in The Warfield Collaborative, Rees said they are not members of the Warfield Development Corporation or the town council.
Former Sykesville Mayor Jonathan Herman is acting as a consultant to the group, according to Rees.
Negotiations for the property are ongoing, according to Rees, but the current offer is for $5 million, with Sykesville receiving about $1 million.
The remaining $4 million could be used to pay down the nearly $6 million in debt Sykesville has accrued maintaining the property. The Warfield Collaborative would agree to absorb the remaining debt.
"One of the things that we are still under negotiation with them about is the level of debt curtailment that we will get to incent them to continue this project," Rees said.
The contract would need to be approved by the town council.
The concept proposal presented Thursday includes two 20,000-square foot buildings near the Northrop Grumman building, office and retail buildings in the center of the property with a townhouse community adjacent to Warfield Park.
The 12 historic buildings on the property would also be redeveloped, according to Rees.
Only two of the 12 buildings are occupied with Carroll County Dance Center and Nexium Corporation being the tenants.
Sykesville Town Attorney Dennis Hoover said new buildings would be designed to look similar to the historic buildings.
Rees said it is too early to know what tenants could move into commercial or retail buildings.
The expectation is that there will be 400,000 to 500,000 total square feet of commercial and retail space, according to Hoover, but the hope is that there will be more commercial than retail.
The current zoning of the property allows for residential and commercial space, but not to the extent of what has been proposed, so there would need to be some "recrafting" of the zoning, Hoover said.
The town has tried unsuccessfully in the past with two developers to negotitate an approved redevelopment plan. Sykesville has also worked with the county to redevelop individual buildings and parcels without much success.
"We were never able to find tenants at the proper price points to make it successful," Rees said.
The Warfield Collaborative has yet to perform a feasibility study to determine if the project will be profitable, so they could still walk away from the project after that study is completed.
Although it is still early in the process, Rees said this group has gotten further than any of the previous two developers and he believes this group has the financial wherewithal to make the project happen.
Shaw said the plan would follow through with the goals of increasing the commercial tax base while creating high paying jobs and increasing foot traffic along Main Street.
"If we can get them to Warfield, we can get them to Main Street," he said.
Carroll County Commissioners President Doug Howard said he was happy to see the project moving forward and the key to keep it progressing is dialogue between all parties.
Howard added that the county's primary interest in the project has been economic development and bringing high end jobs to the county.